The labor force in 2002 consisted of about 2.6 million persons. In 1998, an estimated 17% were engaged in agriculture, 24% in industry, and 59% in services and government. Unemployment is a persistent problem, affecting an estimated 17% of the workforce in 2001. Underemployment was also widespread.
The labor code provides comprehensive protection for workers but as of 2002, only about 10% of the Dominican workforce was unionized. Major labor confederations include the National Confederation of Dominican Workers, and the Unitary Workers Confederation. Employees in nonessential public services are provided with the right to strike. The labor code also specifies steps for union registration, entering into collective bargaining pacts, and calling strikes. However, widespread intimidation of union organizers and members has been reported.
The standard work week is set at 44 hours with an eight hour day. The law also provides for a rest time each week of 36 uninterrupted hours. The labor code prohibits employment of children under 14. However, economic and social conditions have forced many children to work to help support their families. The minimum wage, $152 per month in 2002, covers only a fraction of a family's costs. Occupational health standards are not enforced and working conditions, especially on sugar plantations, can be particularly harsh.